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Ethiopia: Northern Ethiopia Access Snapshot (January 2022)

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Humanitarian access to northern Ethiopia was hindered by active hostilities in Afar region and long-standing bureaucratic impediments, with no relief convoys reaching Tigray since December. End-January, food operators announced that food stocks in Tigray could only feed 20,000 people for one month, while those of therapeutic nutrition supplies were completely depleted. Refugee camps hosting thousands of Eritrean refugees in North Western Tigray have run out of essential supplies and services (UNHCR). Relief organizations have either suspended or significantly reduced operations amid critical shortages of supplies, fuel, and cash. Since end-January, several flights carrying medical supplies were cleared and reached Tigray.

In January, sporadic fighting continued in multiple hotspots along the borders between Tigray - Amhara and Afar, particularly intensified around the latter. Several casualties, particularly amongst children were reportedly caused by unexploded ordnances (UXO) and explosive remnants of war (ERW). This is a major threat to the lives and safety of the population living in the conflict area or returning to places of origin.

In Tigray, civilians continued to suffer from hostilities, as several casualties were reported including amongst refugees and internally displaced persons when the camps/sites came under fire. The regaining of hostilities pushed humanitarian partners to suspend their activities fearing for their security. The hostilities have not spared aid workers with the latest victim killed in Tigray in December 2021. The situation in Western Tigray remains unchanged, where since December, some 34,000 people have been forcibly relocated from Western to North Western Tigray, where assistance to IDPs and local communities has been extremely limited due to lack of fuel, relief supplies and cash.

In Afar, by mid-December, armed hostilities between parties to the conflict escalated in Abala woreda, causing civilian casualties, the destruction of public and private infrastructure. According to the Afar authorities, over 250,000 people have fled conflict areas into Afar region whereas others fled into Tigray. In January, clashes spread into Megale, Kunneba, Dalol, Erebti and Afdera woredas in Kilbati /Zone 2. One aid worker was reportedly killed and another one remains missing in Megale. The escalation of hostilities has not only led to human suffering but also restricted access of the affected population in Afar to aid as armed clashes continue to prevent partners from delivering assistance.

The situation in Amhara has stabilized allowing some 500,000 IDPs to return to their areas of origin. On the other hand, an estimated 700,000 remain displaced within Amhara, including from neighboring Benishangul Gumuz and Oromia regions. Partners are scaling up the response to support the return of IDPs, while longer-term interventions are needed to rehabilitate the damaged and destroyed public services and homes. Meanwhile, sporadic fighting continued in areas closer to Tigray, prompting new displacements and restricting access, so far, e.g., some 3,100 people from Adi Arkey to Zarema woreda (North Gondar), 3,200 people in Abergele and Sekota woredas (Wag Hamra), and 2,000 in Raya Kobo woreda (North Wollo). In addition, some 30,000 people have been displaced into North Shewa (Amhara) because of an intensification of violence in Western Oromia.

Since the start of the conflict in northern Ethiopia, 25 aid workers have been killed (23 in Tigray, one in Amhara, and one in Afar). This notwithstanding, the number of violent incidents affecting aid workers reduced in January from previous months, with partners reporting an improvement vis-à-vis the negative perception and intimidation reported earlier. Most UN/INGO aid workers arrested in November in Addis Ababa in connection with the National State of Emergency (2 November 2021) have been released. End-December, the INGO Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) was authorized to resume relief operations in Ethiopia, after five months of suspension.

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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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